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27 July 2007

Timing is everything!

It was nice and overcast this morning, so the office window was open. I was checking email and taking a quick look at a few blogs before taking on various and sundry errands in town. Suddenly, I noticed a shrill insistent, 'kee, kee, kee' outside. It took a minute for my brain to kick into gear and remind me that I'd heard that sound before. It was a kite! Now kites are pretty close to the top of my all-time favourite birds list, so I jumped up and stumbled over to the window. There he was, perched on a snag right up by the road. Must be a Mississippi, I thought, as I have NEVER seen a Swallow-tailed (hereafter referred to as STKI) sitting still for even a second. Then my peripheral vision locked onto something moving nearby. It was a STKI! Oh man! It was a Momma hunting for breakfast for her baby, who was SITTING on the snag, screaming, 'FEED ME!'

I grabbed my bins and stepped out onto the deck. She swooped in with the appetizer, dropped it, dove, missed, and took off to try again. Baby wasn't amused. It was raining just a tad, but I thought if I could get over to the truck, I might be able to shoot from inside. Plus I'd be a bit closer than 500 feet, maybe. PTL, the rain stopped, so I took a few shots next to the truck, then went to climb in the back so I could steady the camera on the back window. In the second I moved into that tiny blind spot, he took off and headed for the back forty. I last saw him soaring over the cypress stand, heading for the national forest.

Sorry, y'all, if I got your hopes up for something fantastic. With poor lighting and about 400 +/- foot distance, this is as good as it gets. Click on the pics for slightly larger views. 8-]


I was SO tickled that I, for once, snapped at just the right nano-second to catch Momma's fly-by feeding! No kidding, she was on that branch a split second and gone again. I got one pic of her in flight, but the distance and grey sky made for a not-so-hot shot.

I never did make it to the grocery store, but did get my other errands done. And on the way home, I wheeled around a curve just in time to see a GORGEOUS Diamondback Rattler slithering across the road. Amazingly, I was able to straddle him and he went on his way without missing a beat. I backed up long enough to watch him till he stopped at the edge of the woods. He gave me a KEEP BACK look, then hurried off. About 4 feet long maybe? I should go measure the distance between my tires. 8-]

Off to watch Jeopardy, then dig up some supper. God bless y'all!

13 comments:

Meems said...

how wonderfully exciting. i completely enjoyed your capture and your story. beautiful bird- i'm sure i have never seen a live STKI.

Floridacracker said...

After your morning comment, I walked out to feed the chickens and there was a SWTK drifting lazily overhead.
I had walked out cameraless so I just enjoyed it all to myself.

I think your shot of the feeding qualifies for fantastic, even with the distance and grey sky challenge.
How neat is that? Good shootin'.

rcwbiologist said...

Found you via floridacracker, great blog. Thanks for the kite pictures. I've always wanted to see a diamondback. In 8 years now of doing field work in the southeast I've yet to see my first one. I envy you.

SophieMae said...

Meems, they are so beautiful! Keep looking up! They'll be migrating back to S. America soon.

FC, they really are a treat, aren't they?! I'm still grinnin'! 8-} I hope I can get up to The Farm next month. They gather there to stock up for their trip south.

RCW, thanks ever so for stopping by! That's the second diamondback I've seen on our road. The other, November last, was much larger. I posted pics at http://tacachale.blogspot.com/2006/11/my-good-deed-for-week.html

Rurality said...

Nice birds, great pics! I love watching them soar around... wish we got them up here in north Alabama.

Hurricane Teen said...

Ahhh I've only seen one swallow-tailed kite in my (relatively short) life! I love them, though. It's exciting to hear about your rattler experience, too...That, and other poisonous snakes, are my biggest fear when I am out in the swamp or on the trail.

SophieMae said...

Rurality, glad you stopped by! One of my favourite things about living here is seeing the STKI's soaring over our yard every summer. We get some great birds, but y'all have beavers. I'm still trying to find (a live) one down here.

H-teen, it's so hard to believe you've only seen one STKI. But I do seem to remember, I think, reading they aren't as frequent over your way. I hear ya about the rattlers. Diamondbacks are one of the few things I'm really, really afraid of crossing paths with... those and swans. 8-}

Steve said...

Yes, that is one of my all-time favorites, too. Really great photos, Sophiemae. For an additional note on the species, a friend of mine went by a spot in Allendale County, SC, where our biggest concentrations of them start showing up this time each year, and he found 80 - 100 of them flying over a coastal bermuda hayfield. That was Saturday. Once when I lived in Florence, I had two spend some time over the field beside my house. That's the only time I've had them for a yard bird.

It's an exciting time to be a birder. And I think God must have been having fun when he designed this one.

SophieMae said...

Steve, it's truly an awesome sight when they start gathering for migration. Have you ever seen barn swallows gather? Thousands of them come together, swirl around for a while, close ranks like a big avian tornado, then all swoop down to the nightly roost... and, POUFE, it's over. It's amazing!

thingfish23 said...

Well, I'll duck for cover after saying that we have 'em all the time here!

(ducks)

BUT - I have never seen one eat, nor land, nor ever stop flying, even for a second. Those are some amazing things to see! Bonus kudos for managing to get photographs!

SophieMae said...

T-fish, there are a lot of things I don't miss about living down there. I'd move back, though, for the kites and frigatebirds and never having to bring in or cover my plants. Oh, and fishing from the back yard.

Thanks ever so for the bonus. I still can't believe I caught that. 8-]

misti said...

We were hiking the Florida Trail from Loop Road to 41 back in April and we saw a pair sitting on a dead cypress. Unfortunately our photos were not as good as yours. There were also a few having fun in the air as well. I look forward to seeing these birds every year.

SophieMae said...

Misti, I feel it's a treat to see them at all. Seeing them perched is a bonus! 8-]